In order to discipline my children or students, I must first discipline myself. I must maintain my own control. Keep my cool in the midst of stress. When I do that I am an example to the littles (and bigs) around me.
Chapter 1 of Conscious Discipline is Composure (The Power of Perception). Becky Bailey has some wonderful quotes in this entire book. I love reading and rereading it. Often it catches me, whoops, rewind, try that again, Alyce.
"Be the person I want others to become." (page 25) How am I doing on that today?
This is not always easy for me, but fortunately Bailey has set out four principles to help those of us who are not naturals with composure (or want to become better).
Principle #1: Composure is self control in action. It is a prerequisite skill adults need before disciplining children. Good. But what next? How do I do that? It is not my natural style. Keep going, help is on the way.
Principle #2:Healthy secure relationships require that we control our own upset. No one can make us angry without our permission. My thoughts control my emotions. I become upset when the world does not work out as I thought it should. I am never upset for the reason I think I am. "Self control is an act of love and a moment-by-moment choice." (page 34)
This is why it is called "conscious" discipline. I have to be aware every moment. Every moment I can choose to be in control of my emotions and actions, or I can just be half aware and hope for the best (which usually is not my best). After an hour of being conscious I really need a break...somewhere to be and not be aware. Being conscious drains me. But being conscious also energizes me. I think it is draining when things are not going my way and I have to work at my own composure. Perhaps if I get better at self control I will find consciousness more energizing than draining.
Principle #3: Start the day the brain smart way and implement stress reduction activities. I loved doing this last year. It made a difference for me and my students. There are 4 parts.
1. Activity to unite (sing a song together, say the Pledge of Allegiance together)
2. Activity to disengage stress (stretching, breathing, focus)
3. Activity to connect (greeting everyone around the circle, etc. greeting cards from Mrs. Bainbridge were great last year)
4. Activity to commit oneself to learning (pick one thing you will do today to be a learner...keep hands to myself, raise my hand for permission to speak, etc.)
I am going to make a canvas with this on it to hang in my classroom.
Why is brain smart start so important? Because the children (and even me some days) come to school with baggage. Something happened at home or on the bus or waiting for me to gather the class in the gym. Something that needs to be dealt with before any academic learning has a hope of happening. How will I bridge the gap? I cannot call my fabulous social worker every day to come and take care of the situation. That does not teach the children how to manage their own composure. But every day I have a choice. Will I get straight to business, or look at each heart to make sure it is whole today? Last year I did not choose the heart every day. Next year I commit to choosing the heart.
Being brain smart will help the students answer some question. Am I safe? Does the class feed good? Do I belong?
Principle #4: Your job is to keep the classroom safe so children can learn. The child's job is to help keep it safe. Last year I related nearly everything to safety. It was nice. The children took my words as well, and would come to me, "I don't feel safe..." and we could address it together. Magic moment. Consciousness works.
Each week we had different STAR (stop, take a deep breath and relax) helper. As the year progressed, this person was needed and used. Once a person came to me and asked if the star helper could help. Sure. They did their thing. I never knew what happened. (I felt a little left out, but was encouraged by the empowerment those children had.)
Another time, it just happened. Two students were together on the floor. One was crying, the other had her arms wrapped around her and visibly breathing with her. I desperately wanted to go help. But they did not need my help. I watched and smiled, and got some tears as well. For the pain and the love. Magic moment.
My next steps:
1. Everyday make a choice--do I want to own my own upset and maintain self-control or do I want to give my power away and blame others for taking it?
2. When I'm upset, own it. Tell myself it's ok. Sniff some hot chocolate ala The Teacher Tipster.
3. Create a list of stress reduction activities that we can do throughout the day.
Amazing. If this is as far as I get with Becky Bailey next year, it will be wonderful. But I know I won't stop. I will do this and add more as the year happens. I don't know next years students. But lasts year were awesome, amazing, magic.